At SMART Reading, our mission is to spark joy and opportunity through the magic of a shared book. Although the 2020-21 school year brings new challenges, we’re continuing to deliver on our mission at a time when Oregon families need support more than ever. 

In light of COVID-19, there is no in-person reading in the 2020-21 school year. Instead, our statewide team has developed several program adaptations  that allow us to continue partnering with educators in order to boost literacy rates and inspire excited, confident young readers with our proven formula of providing 1) access to books for students to keep and 2) reading practice. 



Book Distribution: 

Access to books is a crucial way we support children’s literacy, and with so many children participating in distance learning, these books are more important than ever.

We gave away 30,000+ books after schools closed in March, and we’re expanding our book distribution in 2020-21 to give away nearly 150,000 new, high-quality, diverse titles.

  • Book giveaways for full classrooms (vs. only teacher-selected students)
  • Utilize technology to allow students to choose from a selection of titles
  • Offer flexibility around book selection and giveaway frequency to simplify logistics and reduce burden on educators
  • Complement book giveaways with access to a library of video read-alouds (see below for more)

Virtual Reading: 

We’re piloting a few virtual reading options that connect volunteers and students for shared reading experiences.

And rest assured, we’re committed to getting back to in-person reading as soon as we can safely do so.

  • Library of video read-alouds: Volunteers are recording themselves reading aloud hundreds of books in our collection and every student has access to this library of read-alouds via a QR code placed in each of the books we give away.
  • Live classroom read-alouds: As requested by sites, SMART Reading volunteers are available to do live virtual read-alouds with entire classrooms on a regular schedule.
  • Live individual read-alouds: As requested by sites and the model that looks most like “traditional SMART,” a student is paired with two volunteers for a virtual reading session on Zoom for weekly sessions. The volunteers and students access a virtual storyroom of books to read together. 
  • Pen Pal Program: To encourage students and provide the social emotional connect with volunteers, sites can opt in to this model where kids and volunteers write back and forth to one another about books and reading. 

Timeline for Rollout: Book distribution kicked off in November 2020 and students already have access to our library of video read-alouds as well!  We’re also currently piloting our virtual reading models, and those will roll out more broadly later in the winter and more formally next year. 

Volunteer Engagement: Volunteers have always been the lifeblood of SMART Reading! While we will do our best to place all interested volunteers, opportunities are much more limited and vary by region and site. We recognize that we may not have a role for everyone this year. We know that is hard news, and we look forward to getting back to in-person reading with all our amazing volunteers next year!

That being said, we’ll continue to place as many volunteers as we can, and more opportunities will arise as the year continues! These roles include:

  • Support with book distribution: sort, package and deliver books to local sites; assist with book inventory 
  • Participate as a Reader in a pre-recorded video read-aloud or live read-aloud session
  • Take part in the SMART Pen Pal program by writing a notes to students
  • Become a Digital Ambassador and help support fundraising and awareness-building efforts

Family Engagement

Engaging families in our work represents an extension of SMART Reading’s mission; by engaging parents, caregivers and children at home, we can multiply our impact by forming a circle of support around our students. We are developing a number of new activities in 2020-21  to engage parents and families (both those we serve and in general) by providing useful and accessible literacy resources. 

* We anticipate our plans will continue to evolve as the school year begins and we adapt to our changing circumstances.